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Creativity, Leadership & Self-Awareness: Is It as Prevalent as It Used to Be?

Date: Sep 20, 2022 @ 07:00 AM
Filed Under: Industry Insights

Making your 2022 and 2023 numbers will likely depend on the creativity of your organization and finding your personal ability to be creative, while managing risk. This seems to have become a lost art. While the economy, current culture and climate have plenty of challenges, these factors also create an environment for opportunity and being a “difference maker.” Private equity firms are raising money at levels and speeds rarely ever seen. Is your organization prepared to take advantage of opportunities and maximize returns for both you and your clients? To follow are four considerations that could be instrumental for your ultimate success:

When You Say You Can; Make Sure You Can
More than ever, constituencies are looking for real-time answers. Attention spans are shorter, and we live in a world where immediate gratification is desired. Whether this is truly needed now or not, really isn’t relevant. That said, this environment provides a short runway for success or failure. Certainly, response time is critical, but being able to accurately and timely address situations and being able to do this without excuses is paramount because stakeholders have long memories.
A positive tail:  A regional growing traditional FDIC lender, Firstrust Bank has made a name for itself by adding talented and experienced lenders. Professionals that synthesize substantial amounts of information and provide sensitivities and guidance in an expedited timeframe. Within the confines of a bank, they are creative, nimble and successful. They assess the situation quickly – and we all know an expedited response is critical even when the answer is “no,” because there is little or no wasted effort.

Compare that with a large national institution. Their asset based lending team was considering a deal and turned it down. But they introduced a different division of the bank that “insisted they had interest.” In my heart of hearts, I knew it was not a good fit. During the client meeting, this lending institution was unprepared and flat out embarrassing and, to no one’s surprise, ultimately turned the deal down. Being prepared, hungry, diligent and aggressive is a combination that always proves to be successful.

Excellent Leadership, Self-Awareness, and Setting an Example – More Important than Ever
In a time when retaining talent is harder than ever, consider whether your company/organization is standing out for the right reasons. To follow are perspectives from leaders that are worth considering:

  • I am going to do my best to recount a conversation I had with the President and CEO of White Oak Commercial Finance (White Oak), Robert Grbic. Managing the work-life balance is more important than ever, and to me Bob’s approach is like an oasis in the desert. White Oak encourages its team to enjoy their non-work time without sacrificing client and customer relationships and meeting objectives. They only contact people in the evening or on the weekends if it’s time sensitive; that is if a deal is closing shortly (my interpretation), or a situation presents itself where a customer is at risk, or for an immediate opportunity. Everyone needs a bit of a break to be more productive. No brownie points are awarded for “making work,” sending superfluous emails in the wee hours or on the weekend to show you are on the clock. How many times have we been the recipient of one of those?
  • Mike Nestor, Vice Chairman of the Delaware Law Firm Young Conway Stargatt & Taylor, said, “I was conducting on-campus interviews yesterday and a law student asked me about the Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP work/life balance. I recalled a lifestyle-altering conversion I had with a very senior Dean of the bankruptcy bar almost 23 years ago. We were discussing an expedited project and I let him know that I had intended to walk in my son's Halloween parade (he is now 23), but that I would skip the parade. He told me 'Mike, you will never remember the case that you worked on to miss your child's Halloween parade, but you will always remember that you missed the parade.’ That smacked me in the face, and I have tried to live/preach that ever since. To all the young professionals – there will be times when you cannot help it but do your best to not miss the Halloween parades.”
  • How to encourage “younger staff” to come into the office more frequently. Not surprisingly it starts at the top. It is difficult to convince younger colleagues and administrators to come into the office if those in the senior ranks do not. Having spoken with some of my colleagues, one approach that appears to have worked exceptionally well is being employed in the investment banking sector. Introduce younger colleagues to truly being engaged as part of the deal team and not just in their silos. For instance, try and find the opportunity for them to meet “C-Suite” team members. If the client is comfortable with it, have them attend and participate in critical meetings. Engage! Engage! Put them in a position and provide an opportunity for them to succeed and gain exposure. It is a difference maker. Most recently, while attending a webinar, a bankruptcy court judge said she looks for and encourages firms to have their younger colleagues speak and present. She further encourages the firms to have them make a noticeable impact. I assure you, like the old E.F. Hutton commercials used to say: When this Judge speaks, people listen.

Humility: Never Be Too Important to Say Thank You and There continues to Be No “I” in Team
Increasingly, self-serving and disingenuous commentary appears to be the rule not the exception. As an example, I encourage you to see Celsius’s Co-Founder Alex Mashinshy and CFO Rob Bolger’s recent releases soon before and after they filed for Chapter 11. Counter to that, is a story I read about Charles Barkley – the Hall of Fame basketball player and current NBA commentator. Charles was raised by his grandmother. According to the piece, she once told him: Charles, when you are going up and climbing that ladder of success always stop and get off on the floors to say thank you to those who helped you along the way. For those of us who grew up in Philadelphia and watched him play, at the outset of his career his nickname was, “The Round Mound of Rebound.” He suggested in a different article that no matter how successful he became, that nickname always kept him humble.

Leaving a Lasting Impression – Hopefully for the Better
It has been said that our country has a short-term view. Like financial market earnings reports, we live quarter to quarter, sometimes month to month. While this certainly can be debated, there is probably some truth to it. However, it is so important to look beyond immediate results. Have you left the best impression with your prospect/client so they will think of you next time? In my career I have found a handful of people who, whether they win or lose the deal, leave such an exceptional impression that they will always be given a chance for the next opportunity. My colleague Allen Wilen said it best; that some of his best referrals have come from a competitor who was conflicted out. Impressions are far reaching and everlasting. Ensure it’s your best effort.

A Final Thought
As the summer ends, we find many professionals in one of two categories: Those that are close to or exceeding budget and are positioned for a good to excellent year; and those who are trending below budget. The latter are either justifying their shortfall, or hopefully they have been reenergized by reading this article and are prepared to make a substantial difference and turnaround. Either way it should be an exciting end to 2022 with trends towards hopefully exceeding budget and expectations.

Robert D. Katz, CTP, CPA, MBA
Managing Director | EisnerAmper LLP
Robert D. Katz, CTP, CPA, MBA is a Managing Director at EisnerAmper Advisory Group. He serves as a CRO and is an expert in and increasing cash flow. He is a frequent contributor to the ABL Advisor. He is one of the Founders of TMA’s most successful conferences, The Distressed Investing Conference, and the MidAtlantic Regional Symposium. He is an Adjunct Professor in Strategic Management and Corporate Finance at Temple University. He can be reached at or (215) 738 – 5542.
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